I’ve been meaning to write this blog post for a couple of weeks now, but have struggled to find the time to write it. I have a full and busy life and sometimes simply don’t have time to do all the things I really want to do, like progressing my writing projects or updating this blog.
Hmm. Let’s have a look at what those phrases really mean: ‘struggled to find the time’ and ‘don’t have time’.
We all, as my husband is fond of saying, have the same amount of time available to us. That is, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. No one can ‘find time’ – there’s no more or less of it each day than there was the day before. What we can do is organise our time, and choose what to do with it. Sure there are often time commitments – to a day job, to children, spouses, elderly parents – things we need to fit into each day. But except in rare cases and hopefully only for the short term, these commitments don’t use up the full 24 hours each day.
And saying you don’t have time to do something is really saying you don’t have enough motivation to do it. As an extreme example, suppose someone told you that starting tomorrow you need to drive for an hour and a half, sit in a quiet room for an hour, and then drive an hour and a half home. Every day. That’s four hours, every day. You’d snort and laugh, and say, well I simply don’t have time to do that! Now imagine that you have kidney failure. You need to undergo dialysis for an hour every day, and the nearest facility is an hour and a half’s drive away. Now could you spare the time to do this? Well yes, of course you could, because it’s either do it or die. You have the motivation to do it now, so you’d damn well spare the time to do it, and fit all your other commitments around the daily dialysis trips.
If you are motivated enough to do a thing, you will always find there is enough time to do it.
Ten years ago, before I began writing, I was waiting until I ‘had the time’ to write. With a full time job, a house to run and two children to rear (small then, hulking great teenagers now), I felt there was no time for me to write. Until one day a story appeared fully formed in my mind, and I sat down at the computer after my working day was complete, and began to write. An hour and a half later the story was written. There’d been time for me to write, and my company was still in business, the house was still standing and the children alive. From then on, I felt strongly motivated to write and therefore I scheduled writing time into my life.
My company is still in business, the house is still standing (I assume, actually we’ve moved since then!) and the children are still alive. And I’ve written hundreds of short stories, had dozens of them published, written two How To books, two completed novels, another novel part written, and kept the womagwriter blog up to date. Since then I’ve also increased my working hours, taken up running and when my mother began needing more support, I’ve provided it.
All out of the same 24 hours a day, 7 days a week that we all are allocated.
I don’t think I’m superwoman. I know other writers who’ve written novels while on maternity leave, written and promoted novels while bringing up toddlers and holding down a full time job, written and sold novellas at the rate of one a month. But I can do all this because I want to. I really want to. I love writing, want to produce a novel good enough to land me an agent and a traditional book deal, want to write and self-publish other books, want to build up my running so I can complete the Bournemouth half-marathon in a respectable time, and want to complete my projects at work on time and to budget. I’m motivated to do all these things.
Not always. Sometimes I say I don’t have time, and what that really means is, I can’t be bothered. So I veg in front of the TV, play a mindless game on my iPad, or laze in a hot bath with a good book for an hour or so. It’s ok to give yourself permission to take time out now and again. But overall, try to stay motivated so that you make the best use of your time.
Decide what you really want. Each day when you get up, work out when in the day you are going to go after your dream. Schedule that time in first, and make everything else fit around it.
thanks for a thought-provoking post. I think when most people say they ‘don’t have time’ (and I’m one – sometimes!) what they really mean is ‘I’m scared!’ Writing is hard -it’s much easier to browse Twitter or leave a post on someone’s blog (!) than shut yourself away with a laptop and, as someone famously said, ‘open a vein’. Often what you produce (especially first draft) doesn’t live up to the kind of writing you want to write. It’s disappointing. It’s tempting to throw the towel in and go and watch the tele’ instead. I think, often, the only difference between writers who get published and those that don’t, is persistence and determination. It’s got little to do with talent. It’s about how much you want it and how hard you’re prepared to work. And on that note, I need to do some writing…! Helen
You’re right, fear, usually unacknowledged, is another factor. It is hard, but no one said it would be easy!
Sue Johnson said:
I totally agree with what you’re saying. If you really want to do something you’ll find the time – even if it is only five minutes. I usually advise my students to aim for a minimum of fifteen minutes a day. You can achieve a lot in that time. Two hundred and fifty words a day – every day- gives you over 90,000 words in a year!
Yes, little and often can work well. Also often once you’ve started your 250 words, you might just find yourself carrying on to 1000 or more…. It’s getting started that’s the hard bit.(Blog post for another day, that, I think!)
This is such a brilliant post, Kath, and really inspiring. You’re so right that we all have the same 24 hours in the day, and I need to make a lot better use of mine – I don’t have to do half the things you do, you put me to shame!
Rubbish – you write hundreds of stories as well as your novels. You’ve a great track record!
Georgina Troy said:
You’re so right, we do all have the same of hours in each day and when I think how many of them I waste ‘thinking’ about what I’m going to do instead of doing it, it frustrates me a little. I’m always much happier when I’ve achieved what I set out to do that day. I’ve no idea how you fit everything in to your day though.
Thinking time is good and essential for writers, but the trick is to combine thinking with something else that needs doing. You can daydream about your novel while washing up. For me, running time is thinking time. Multi-tasking!
Excellent post, thank you! I completely agree and find my motivation waned as soon as I stopped working outside the house. For me, the more I have to do the more I manage to accomplish because then I have to give everything its focus time.
They do say, if you want something done give it to a busy person. I think when the to-do list piles up it forces you to prioritise and be efficient. So for writers, self-imposed deadlines and several projects on the go at once will be a good thing!
I don’t think we stop and ask ourselves the question enough: what’s more important to me – cracking on with the novel of watching that film on the telly … the one I’ve already seen twice before! Thinking visually can help me. I’ve mocked up a front cover of my novel I’m writing at the moment and stuck it somewhere prominent. Every time i wonder what to do next, I see that, which reminds me it won’t write itself! The less work I do on it, the longer that front cover remains as a mock up!
Oh that’s a fabulous idea, Simon! Yes, keep your goals in mind as a means of keeping yourself motivated.
Love that idea, Simon!
Thanks for this post, Kath. I’m a constant whiner about not having enough time to write, when the truth is I am absolutely useless at organizing my time.
Yes, it is usually just a case of time-management. We’re all guilty of whining about lack of time though!
Sue Blackburn said:
Brilliant post Kath, so true and thought porovoking. We all find time to do the things we really want to do don’t we, and let’s face it, writing’s hard work so we don’t always feel in the mood, (that film, Simon, even if we’ve seen it three or four times suddenly becomes the must do thing of the moment!!) But I love the little and often idea because SO often when you sit down and write – suddenly you find you’ve been been writing for ages! I often cannot believe how much time has gone by when I’ve got immersed in my writing!
You’re right Sue – it’s the getting started that;s hard, so the little and often works because once you’re up and running you often do way more than you’d expected to.
Denise Joynes said:
I’m in the unusual situation of having too much time. I have few commitments and my days are almost all my own, yet I still find myself finding excuses not to spend more time writing. For me there’s always tomorrow. Though I think there’s more to it than that; I think fear comes into it too, and frustration. A couple of published stories and a heap of rejections in four years doesn’t help. I keep going though. Well you have to, don’t you. 🙂
I understand what you mean about the fear, Denise. If you don’t write and submit you won’t get rejections – you won’t open yourself up to the misery rejections can bring. But the only thing certain in this game is that if you don’t write and submit it, then it definitely won’t be published.
Keep going – there’s a word for a writer who never gives up: Published.
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